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High country farming in New Zealand: exploration of the pathways to sustainability revealed through responses to external and internal drivers derived from the ARGOS retrospective interviews

Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability
Publication Date
  • High Country Farming
  • Agricultural Sustainability
  • Farm Management
  • Farming Systems
  • Stress
  • Ecology
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Political Science


Though the overall aim of the Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability (ARGOSi) is to investigate and compare the environmental, social and economic effects of different farming systems (Organic, Integrated and Conventional) in the sheep/beef, kiwifruit and dairy sectors, it also has a mandate to study farming in the High Country of the South Island. Eight High Country farms have been selected for study alongside 36 farms from the sheep/beef sector (12 in each panel???organic, integrated and conventional), 36 orchards from the kiwifruit sector (12 in each panel???Kiwi Green Hayward, Kiwi Green Hort 16A and Organic Hayward) and 24 farms from the dairy sector (12 in each panel??? conventional and organic). ARGOS was established in October 2003 and is now in the second stage of the project (ARGOS2) of what is intended to be a longitudinal panel study. In the first six year research period of ARGOS1, a range of factors that can impact on the sustainability of farming systems were identified, largely focusing on contemporary farm conditions. Different audit systems were studied as pathways to sustainability, at the economic, social and environmental levels. The research also identified distinct responses to different types of pressures and shocks that appeared to be related to the sector, farm management system and farm type. As High Country farming has been impacted on considerably by government and local body policies and regulations, public works and extreme weather events, it is now relevant to include it in our research from social and economic perspectives in addition to the environmental study already in progress.ii This report aims to provide a first step, using semi-structured retrospective interviews from ARGOS2, in understanding the different drivers of change and their impact on farm management decisions for High Country farmers. This report presents a descriptive driver-and-response-based perspective at the family farm level, of the impacts of and the response to external and internal stress factors over the last 40 years, drawing on interviews with High Country farming families participating in ARGOS.

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